Behind the headlines

In response to staff shortages and exhortations from above to
prioritise child protection work, some local authorities are
discussing – and at least one has gone ahead with – plans to pay
extra to staff working with children. Bu there are warnings that
the move could prove counterproductive with adult services staff,
who are also overstretched, fearing that they may become “the poor

Karen Squillino, children’s services manager,

“Throwing money at child protection workers through additional
increments is an ill-thought out measure. If this was occurring in
conjunction with other measures that addressed recruitment and
retention difficulties such as robust employee support programmes
and quality training opportunities then I would be less sceptical.
West Sussex management have also admitted that jobs will be cut to
fund this plan, not a good move I sense.”

Bob Hudson, professor of partnership studies, Health
Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham
“The reality is that you can’t have a children’s service
without staff, and the recruitment and retention problems in this
field have reached alarming levels in some areas. The issue is not
so much additional increments to staff working with children, as
the effect on social workers in other fields. Any such increase
must not be at the expense of those working in adult care,
otherwise the pending structural division will also turn into a
division by status.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and
“I am not sure local authorities can win this one. If
children’s services are where there are the highest vacancy rates
and children are not getting the consistent quality of service that
will safeguard their interests then immediate action has to be
taken. The green paper Every Child Matters promises us
that the morale and status of the children’s workforce must improve
– pay is a start. My union days taught me that all improvements,
however piecemeal, set a benchmark for future negotiations.”

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth
“Two key recommendations recurring in many child death
inquiries are to improve practitioners’ skills and increase social
care resources. So, it was encouraging that Every Child
addressed the need for systematic workforce reform.
But, the Children Bill perhaps indicates government’s first
priority is to spend billions on databases, rather than on staff
recruitment, training and retention. Local authorities are
therefore likely to have to continue to resort to piecemeal
short-term solutions that exacerbate inequalities and divisions in
the profession.”

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham

“People will exercise choice as to which is their preferred field
and some will take money more heavily into account than others. My
experience is that a good supportive staff team, decent
supervision, training and a lively department are as important.
There are good signs that at last more people are coming into
social work and as the Children Bill begins to bite, I suspect that
will become a much more popular area to work in. The real dilemma
is what we do then. How will we even that out?”

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